Things look different from down here. My eyes are taking ages to clear, and my brain is taking even longer to read the numbers on the clock. The little hand was pointing to the ten before, now it’s a little bit past twelve. Before the world went black, I remember sticking out my hand to help someone...
He offers her his hand, but before she even gets up, he collapses to the ground. She starts crying, blaming him while he remains silent. She reaches over to him, willing him to listen, but his arm is so stiff that she recoils. And then it starts. The jerks, slow at first, make him look like a puppet, the kind that are attached to strings. His arms and legs move so suddenly, bending at such strange angles that it makes her think whoever is controlling his strings must not be a very good puppeteer. His arm twitches past her, touching her with rigid fingers, which sets her scrambling to get up and get as far away as possible. She trips and stumbles, falling into a barrier of children, onlookers to this...this accident. Their faces mirrors her own, full of shock. And then the whispers start.
I’m in the woods. I have on my favourite runners, the one with blue laces with stars on the ends. If Mummy’s here, she’d be very angry, because I’m jumping in puddles and getting mud all over my shoes. After a bit the puddles doesn’t seem fun anymore, because there’s no one here for me to splash mud on and laugh. So I sit down on the patch of grass. But then it’s too quiet. I don’t like quiet, not anymore. It makes me think of my friends who aren’t talking to me. So I start singing the song that Daddy sings every night, the one with my name in it. But I only remember one line in the song, so I sing it over and over.
“And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude…”
Jude is colouring in. He’s busy imagining himself inside the picture, anywhere but here. Everyone’s keeping a distance from him, ever since that stupid accident. He looks down at his hands for the hundredth time, turning them this way and that, counting all the fingers. He then proceeds to count his toes, and touches his face to check that everything is still there. And for the hundredth time, everything is where they should be. He’s still Jude Alexander on the outside, so it must be something inside him that makes everyone stay away. And that something inside him must have came out when he had that accident, even though he remembers nothing of it. He shoves the thought of the accident away and returns to his colouring-in, because thoughts of the accident makes him miss his friends, and this hurts even more than when he bellyflopped into the pool last month.
It smells great here, just like how it smelt when Daddy let me helped with gardening and I got to plant my first flower. The world’s always wonderful whenever I’m in the woods. I just wish there’s someone to share it with me.
He wills the teacher to come over, to make them stop, but then he realises she’s gone to the toilet. So he takes it into his own hands, tackling the twins and yanking the picture out of their taunting grasp. They yell and holler, as if being tackled hurts more than being teased and shunned. The teacher returns, takes one look at the situation and sends Jude to time-out. She doesn’t even bother to ask him what really happened.
My arm hurts. The twins pushed me into a table, and now there’s a big bruise. They took my picture, called me bad names and got me into trouble. But it doesn’t matter; they can’t do anything to my world, the one that appears when I close my eyes. The world with the soft grass and bright sun.
I run down the path in the woods, spreading my arms as far as they can go. After a bit my lungs hurt so much that I have to stop. That is when I see that I am not alone anymore.
“Hello. What’s your name?” I ask the boy who is sitting a few steps from me.
“I’m Callum,” he answers, smiling up at me.
I smile a great big smile back because I am so happy that someone is talking to me in a nice way.
“What’s your name?” he asks, as excited as me to become friends.
“I don’t have a name,” I say finally. I figure it’s easier to not have a name here, because if I don’t have a name then nobody can ever say that Jude is a weirdo.
Mersades wants to go back inside. There’s no point playing Jude’s favourite game, which is Playground Tag, if Jude isn’t allowed to play. Ms Lloyd said that Jude’s not allowed to play anything that involves too much moving, because it might bring back the jerks and make Jude feels sick. But Jude looks so sad and lonely inside that Mersades feels the need to catch his eye and smile at him. She does just that, but then somebody pokes her in the ribs, which makes her fall off the monkey bar.
“Who are you smiling at? That jerking weirdo?” one of the twins asks.
She wants to say so badly that Jude isn’t a weirdo, that he’s her friend, but the words just won’t get out. She still remembers when the twins pushed Jude around and gave him bruises all over. It scares her, all that fighting. So she just stands there, silent.
“Ok, well Mersades’ It!!” one of the twins shouts and runs off.
We’re playing Tag in the woods. Callum is It. I run, jumping over roots and ducking under branches. Then I find the perfect tree. Scrambling up, I see that Callum is getting closer. But I’m so far up that I’m sure he can never catch up. Suddenly he’s next to me.
“You’re It!” he shouts, and slides down the tree.
Rushing down, my foot gets stuck and I tumble down in a heap. It doesn’t hurt much; just makes me black out and really dizzy when I wake up. When my eyes clear, I see Callum standing in front of me, and it reminds me of the accident when everyone stared at me.
Callum is staring at me. Then he says exactly what they said.
And I believe him.
Mersades looks inside, hoping to find Jude looking back. But he isn’t there. She runs off in the middle of the game, straight to the place where they used to hide and share secrets. Jude is sitting where they used to sit together, and he looks so small and lonely that it makes her chest hurt just looking at him.
She stands in front of him and offers him her hand. He looks up, with big brown eyes.
I know boys aren’t allowed to cry, but I don’t care.